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Tim Thomas breaks out mystery pads in training camp

Tim Thomas breaks out mystery pads in training camp

Switching equipment is nothing new for NHL goaltenders, especially Tim Thomas.

Still, making changes to the puck-stopping set up that helped set an NHL record for save percentage while winning the Vezina Trophy, and then backstop Boston to the Stanley Cup while adding the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP, is bound to raise a few eyebrows. And there are sure to be even more questions when the move is to a small independent company, which is exactly what Thomas did when he debuted the new gear as training camp opened on Saturday.

Thomas, who has worn every equipment designer under the sun during his career, opened the 2011-12 campaign in a pair of white mystery pads and catching glove devoid of any branding:


Scott Slingsby photo. Copyright, all rights reserved.

Immediate speculation centered around a switch to Warrior, a hot industry rumour after the company hired long-time independent Pete Smith to rebuild its goaltending line – Thomas was one of the only goalies to wear Smith in the NHL years ago – but that was quickly shot down by Warrior. Some suggested the new pad was simply a new take on the Vaughns he wore last year – the new V5 model is due out soon, could this be it? – minus the knee rolls and with a solid outer roll instead of the double break from last year’s pads, especially given how similar the inner edge and knee stack area appear in the photo below to the Vaughn’s Thomas used last season.

Thomas unbranded gear

Scott Slingsby photo. Copyright, all rights reserved.

Of course, given how easily designers mimic each other, and how often NHL pads are totally customized and different from what consumers get off the rack from the same manufacturer, anything is possible. And given his recent success, it was not out of the question for an established manufacturer to build a new line around the Bruins’ star, just as Sherwood did with Martin Brodeur.

What seemed less likely was Thomas wearing a small, independent brand, one that simply hadn’t bucked up the huge NHL licensing fee required to have their name displayed on the equipment. According to an NHL source late Saturday, though, that is exactly what Thomas is doing, and InGoal tracked down the builder just before midnight.

The new catching glove and pads are built by Chris Piku, owner, head instructor and equipment designer at the World Pro Goaltending School in Michigan, which just happen to list Bruins’ goalie coach Bob Essensa among its regular instructors.

Piku confirmed he is making the gear for Thomas, but told Bruins fans they shouldn’t worry it might affect his play. That’s because Piku also claims he made the same modifications to the pads Thomas wore during his record-setting last season.

“Last year’s pad is the same one he’s wearing now,” Piku said, adding he bought Vaughn covers from a sporting good store. “Tim’s stuff was all custom made. We elected to put Vaughn covers on it because I wasn’t ready to start dealing with NHL and publisizing it.”

A representative at Vaughn Custom Sports disputed those claims late Sunday night, saying last year’s pads were made by Vaughn, and that even if more modifications were made after they left the factory, they aren’t anything that Vaughn hasn’t done in the past.

“There’s not a mod out there we haven’t done before,” he said, adding Vaughn doesn’t sell covers separately.

Thomas unbranded gear

Scott Slingsby photo. Copyright, all rights reserved.

Whatever the case last season, Piku, who also said he made modifications to pads worn by Ray Emery during his inspiring comeback with the Anaheim Ducks last season after a career-threatening hip injury, said four NHL goalies are set to wear his equipment this year.

The connections to Emery, now in Chicago on a tryout, are obvious. Piku has worked with Emery’s personal goalie guru Eli Wilson for years, and sure enough Emery showed up at Sunday morning’s skate (picture below) wearing unbranded white pads. Piku also claimed that Phoenix goalie Jason LaBarbera, who works with World Pro in Calgary, and Ottawa’s Alex Auld are wearing the pads.

Ray Emery broke out his unbranded Chris Piku-designed pads for Day 2 of his tryout with the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo courtesy of Cheryl Adams from

Piku figures he’ll get more notoriety by not branding his pads in the NHL – and last time InGoal checked the cost was $85,000 per piece to show your logo – and insists he has no desire to compete with the major equipment manufacturers.

“This is a very custom pad that we don’t necessarily even sell to everybody,” said Piku, who sees himself making 250 sets a year. “It’s exclusive gear for goalies we believe are worthy of it and we want to have wearing our gear.”

Piku would only talk about the pads and glove, but it was clear to any goalie inside the Bruins locker room there was custom work done on lots of the gear Thomas was wearing, from the kneepads to the pants. Even the skates pictured below are customized, said Piku.


skates high res

Scott Slingsby photo. Copyright, all rights reserved.


Thomas has a long history of switching equipment. After wearing Bauer in 2009-10, he started last year’s training camp wearing Reebok’s Larceny line head to toe before switching to Vaughn everywhere but the blocker. That same Larceny blocker was back with the new set of pads this year, which isn’t a surprise given how much he told InGoal Magazine he liked it during an Ask-a-Pro segment last season:

“I just decided to basically wear the gear I felt more comfortable with, it doesn’t matter about the brand,” Thomas said. “Different blockers, the board is placed differently on the hand and I find the Reebok I am using is a pretty good compromise: It’s long enough (below the fingers) to get to that one that is just over the pad – it hangs down on the hand enough to get than one, but it’s also high enough up on the hand to help me get the high blocker ones. I like the positioning on the hand, and also it’s got good inner hand protection. Over the years I’ve had blockers that if you get that one shot that rides up your stick, it’s a stinger and teaches you bad habits.”

Thomas blocker

Scott Slingsby photo. Copyright, all rights reserved.

Here are more photos of the unique gear Thomas wore on Saturday, courtesy of InGoal shooter Scott Slingsby:

Thomas unbranded gear

Scott Slingsby photo. Copyright, all rights reserved.

Thomas unbranded gear

Scott Slingsby photo. Copyright, all rights reserved.

Thomas unbranded gear

Scott Slingsby photo. Copyright, all rights reserved.

Thomas unbranded gear

Scott Slingsby photo. Copyright, all rights reserved.

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  1. Paul Galloway

    Great job on Tim Thomas pads story! From a quick couple of shots on the net to BANG! Full story. Great job. PS also had a little Twit chat with Kevin yesterday, always gives the regular guy the answers when asked.Keep up the Great work! (Yikes sounds Stockerish!)

  2. Matt in Montreal

    That’s crazy!

  3. Mike Notko

    First thing I thought of when I saw this was Emery. His pads here in ANA were strangely board straight as are these. Score one for the little guy! Those pads have more buckles than a straight jacket…

  4. Grace Piku

    The genious is inside the pads and the heart of the man, Piku, who lives the game and the experience of the goalie.

  5. Alex Corso

    Chris Piku do not make the pads. A guy named Dennis Dumbrowski make them. He used to do PR for Vaughn. The funny thing about Piku is he never play goalie.

    • CNT

      False Corso, then again, what would the world be without skeptics.

  6. Chopper

    Peaks still plays goal once a week at the local rink with some of the best guys in town. He played in college. He does ok for a guy with bad knees. I always thought he had special equipment that helped him make those big saves.

  7. paul szabo

    Let’s hear it for David taking on Goliath and showing him one better!

    • Glenn

      the skates are bauers bud. look at the toe on the 3rd picture

      • David Hutchison

        The Cowlings are bauer…the boot is not.

  8. NooL

    It may be unrelated but it always struck me how straigh Niemi’s pads are…

    • Matt

      Niemi’s though are just Sherwood/TPS similar to those worn by Anderson but without the breaks.

  9. Eric

    Was Alex Auld wearing a pair of these last night as well?

    • lizer

      yes auld was wearing those pads last night and he’s wearing them again right now against winnipeg

  10. Cuzzman

    My son has gone to the World Pro camp for 7 years and has worked with Cris Piku for almost 10 years. He does make this equipment and is a “genius” when it comes to making it. He also knows a lot about the goaltending area as well. How do I know? My son was a house goalie when he started with Chris…Last year he won a National Championship!! The equipment is the best (my son has been wearing his custom equipment for about 7 years. People can tell who is a World Pro goalie student as well. No question about it!!! You may not like the guy…but he knows his stuff. If I had the money, I would invest it in his company. The “Big” boys have lost sight of the market and are about to get schooled….

  11. Dan

    The problem with changing and modifying the equipment during the season is that Thomas and Piku] reported them late to Toronto. They eventually did send it however it is illegal to change it and use it before sending, which is what happened. That’s a piece of info I’m sure they are trying to keep close to their heart.

  12. Ken

    no Chris Piku in
    where did he play college hockey?

  13. frank piku

    Chris piku Played goalie for Babson college in boston his first yearOF college. Than went on to Graduate from Wayne State Univeristy in Detroit Michigan. he has been playing goalie for all the years since then. He has been teaching goalies for many years and runs World Pro goalie camps in Michigan. Also instructs at many of World Pro goalie camps in other locations in Canada and US. He designs goalie equipment custom for many goalies both in NHL AND MINOR TEAMS TOO.

  14. Kelly

    I think he played college hockey in the 70’s

  15. Matt

    It’s great that someone like Piku finally got in on the NHL business. Now look for guys like Simmons, whose gear myself and some other goalies like even better than Vaughn or RBK (especially their gloves), and many others to have their gear in the NHL not under license.

    • Matt

      And I forgot to mention Passau whose gear has been used by many Q goalies.

  16. Adrian

    Timmy’s pads on opening night this year have Vaughn on them. Why the change?

  17. Matt

    Pads are a little stiff though.

  18. Dan Anderson

    It looks to me like Vaughn is losing more and more of the market share every year

  19. Scott Mcloud

    Peaks is making his gear for goaltenders he believes deserves it. The problem with Vaughn is Mike Vaughn himself. Goaltending gear is an industry of inovations and Mike will not have any ideas go through his factory that he has not thought of himself. This is why Peaks ran into legal issues with using the Vaughn name and is now going with his own line. This is why Thomas’ gear changed brand even though its the same equitment. The no name design is a brand and people who really follow gear know what it is b it’s unique triangles. Only Peaks can understand the 30+ modifications to the gear while still making it legal to all NHL standards.

  20. Scott Anderson

    In warmups of last nights game vs. edmonton.(11/10) Thomas was using a Graf stick. Haven’t seen one of those in a while.

  21. Jesse

    iv been wondering… over the years why dose timmy change pads all the time? i would really like a awnser plz

  22. Scott Mcloud

    He doesn’t change his pads at all. These pads are the same as his last couple sets because they were all made by Piku. However, just recently Piku has started making his own pads instead of modifing different factory made models.

  23. Ryan Davis

    It amazes me how no one realizes what a dumb ass this “chris pike” is. He is local in the metro detroit area, and scams kids into his goalie school’s that are outrageously over priced, then gives them terrible service. Simply because of his poor morals and how he treats people I would never buy a product from him.

    • kyle

      iam a world pro goalie myself and Chris Piku is not a dumb ass he is smartest guy ive ever met

      Piku makes a lot of custom gear even down to sticks

      p.s. u are the dumb ass here

  24. Casey

    His goalie schools are expensive because he has 2 NHL goalie coaches as instructors (Tim Thomas and Carey Price’s coaches). I can’t imagine getting any better than that. Not to mention that the camps are full every year, with mostly returning students. My son has attended for 3 years and I am sending him again next summer. His improvement is very significant. Worth every penny !

    • kyle

      Thank u
      iam a world pro goalie and hope he will continue having the best goalie camp anywhere

  25. password manager

    It’s really a nice and helpful piece of info. I’m happy that you just shared this useful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  26. GoalieGuy

    This article drives me a little crazy b/c Chris Piku did NOT build this gear. Dennis Dumbrowski did.

  27. YMShockey11

    I know this was five years ago but I am impressed he used gear that was unheard of at the time and still today. Is the Piku gear cheap (like 100-200 USD for 30″ pads) and should Rhode Island based company ZEAL start making goalie sticks.